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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by…
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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2017)

by Yuval Noah Harari

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 48 mentions

English (22)  Catalan (4)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All (33)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Some retreading of "Sapiens". The new material was highly speculative and generally ill-informed. Harari seems to have toured Silicon Valley after writing Sapiens, and his thoughts on technology are inaccurate and often factually wrong; one gets the impression that he credulously reads emojied Twitter posts based on clickbait Wired articles based on university press releases based on scientific papers, and never actually looks to the source itself. The book is full of ridiculous syllogisms, as in: Information is important, Humans process information, Therefore humans will outsource their decisions to Google and thanks to the Internet of Things conquer the solar system, the galaxy, and the entire universe!

I very much enjoyed Sapiens, so the sloppy thinking here was quite disappointing. One star for being provocative. ( )
  breic | Jun 16, 2018 |
Interesting and engaging look at social forces that have shaped currently politics and philosophy with hypotheses for what the future may hold. Forecast is concerning and thought-provoking. ( )
  brakketh | May 12, 2018 |
Fascinating read of current and future trends in humanity and humanism.
  ccatalfo | Mar 29, 2018 |
Not as good as the first book, but still a lot to think about while reading it. ( )
  Guide2 | Dec 22, 2017 |
When I was little, I believed (sort of) that Santa Claus existed. It was a working hypothesis that worked, and I didn't look behind it until it became untenable. Now I effectively assume my continuing identity as a person - because that works, sort of, too. In me, and most people I know, the baton of consciousness, of awareness of one's I-ness, is repeatedly exchanged at unimaginable speeds between the two hemispheres. That baton seems to get dropped by people suffering certain forms of dementia - with increasing frequency as their condition worsens, being eventually only picked up and handed to and fro for brief, sometimes apparently fortuitous periods, if at all. How cruel (alongside other pains and indignities) to lose the working hypothesis that everyone else lives by. But perhaps, isolated in the permanently unfamiliar and frightening. Now they may be closer to the reality of the human condition than the rest of us. As with Santa, the mere fact that a working hypothesis produces a desirable and convenient result does not make it correct.

Take famine. We are told that "famine is rare". But across what data-set is that claim true? Across the data-set of what we actually know, about what is actually happening, at the present time? But that is a profoundly-inadequate data-set. We ought to consider also what we don't know about what is happening right now (Do we know whether or not, even right now, a serious famine is underway in under-reported/remote in parts of Africa?). More important, we ought to consider what might have happened, in recent history (has humanity quite possibly been merely lucky not to have experienced a mega-famine, in recent times (we may have come close, for instance, in 2007-9, during which period most of the world's countries resorted to banning food exports)? If so, then we can take very little consolation from the fact that it didn't happen). Most importantly of all, we ought to consider what might be about to happen (Can we really be confident that we’re not in the position of the turkey who claims loudly to any other turkeys that will listen to have ever-increasing evidence that famine is a thing of the past, the closer it gets to Christmas? Perhaps in a decade's time, historians will look back on casual remarks along the lines of some people I know as some kind of cruel or bizarre joke. (Assuming that there are historians to look back, at all).

The so-called 'evidence' of our power isn't really statistically-significant evidence, once we take into account the vast seas of our ignorance. In order to be (justifiably) confident that "famine is rare", we would need to be justifiably confident that our systems are not fragile. That we have enough resilience to weather the storms of misfortune, which might for instance be about to hit us by way of unprecedented climate-disasters, now that our weather appears to be tipping into an unprecedented state. We would need a data-set that covered the three categories of unknowns that I outlined in the previous paragraph.

Of course, the vastly-greater 'data-set' of which I speak here is in principle unavailable to us, stuck as we are in highly-limited epistemic horizons, unable to experience history's counter-factuals, let alone those of the future. The thoroughly counter-factual nature of the 'data-set' that would be needed in order to undergird Harari's claims ensures that we will never become the kinds of masters of the universe that it is so tempting to imagine ourselves being or becoming.

So what can we do? For starters, we can stop patting ourselves on the back that we are living in a safe and secure world, when we simply don't know that. Harari tells us that we have "conquered nature" (my reading); on the contrary, in the very act of struggling to outgrow (our) nature we are unleashing terrifying new post-natural forces that are quite likely to unravel the complex systems and long-supply lines we have created. We are radically fragilising ourselves and our one and only home. What can we do? We can stop doing this. But only if we adopt a radically different vision from the widespread complacent 'progressivism' of Harari and a million other well-fed intellectuals. The real, Janus-faced evidence of our power is in the extent to which we have created a world that is hurtling ever further out of our control. The only way to turn this around is to stop pretending that we have evidence that we are in control, and start taking a properly precautionary attitude. That means starting to radically 'build down' the level of our impacts upon the world around us. Rather than self-defeatingly fantasising ourselves a 'God-species', we need to start acting as if we are what we are: one species, with a responsibility not to destroy our descendants and ourselves -- and not to take most of the other species with us.

What I sense behind the Data driven mindset is the age old human need to eradicate uncertainty. Just to stop having to live in an uncertain world. So no surprises, nothing off the wall, everything predicted, containable, knowable in all its parts. Yet the problem to be dealt with is not really social life and data, the problem is existential and profound, it's intrinsically unmanageable, something functioning entirely within what in the end is an open-ended universe of possibilities (predict that Jimmy) also known to us all as human self-consciousness. I sympathise with the drive (I have one too, a consciousness solid until searched for then turning to air) but no sympathy for the infantile drive of the methodology. There is now way out of our predicament, if there is a way through it may be to live deeply enjoyably, with deep uncertainty.

Bottom-line: I enjoy the way that Harari considers big issues, but so far a number of the ideas seem to reiterate Karl Popper's notion of "world 3", and other themes have been covered in previous SF by Olaf Stapledon (“First and Last Men”), and Isaac Asimov, passim. A bigger problem is that by writing this book Harari has highlighted a problem with the "big history" approach, promoted by people such as Bill Gates. His previous book, “Sapiens”, was a good example of the genre and sought to see human history both in how it fits into the history of the cosmos, biological life, mammal physiology, and the long period in which modern humans existed but wrote nothing. From that Olympic perspective "big history" seeks to move away from both the modern academic resistance to "grand narratives" and from the antiquarianism and micro-history into which some modern academics have retreated. The problem for Harari is that once you have written one "big history" book, there is not really a need to write another, or at least not until new information (from science, diligent archivists, or even intelligent algorithms) changes the big picture. Hence this book is a mix of shitty philosophy, Alvin Toffler-style futurism, and a whole jumble of the author's personal fads and prejudices. Whatever it is, it is not "history".

And that presents a problem. If even author the greatest recent publishing success in "big history" cannot produce a second book on the subject, the whole area does not look that promising for other authors. Provocative book? Not in the least. If you want “provocative” you should instead read “The Trouble with Physics” by Lee Smolin.

SF = Speculative Fiction. ( )
  antao | Dec 20, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yuval Noah Harariprimary authorall editionscalculated
Giménez, Esther RoigTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heijne, BasForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holdorf, JürgenErzählersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perkins, DerekNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Retzlaff, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ros i Aragonès, JoandomènecTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wirthensohn, AndreasÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
林俊宏Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
יהב, איציקיועץsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To my teacher, S. N. Goenka (1924 - 2013), who lovingly taught me important things.
First words
The New Human Agenda

At dawn of the third millenium, humanity wakes up, stretching its limbs and rubbing its eyes.
Quotations
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
"First published as A History of Tomorrow in Hebrew in Israel in 2015 by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir."
"Previously published in Great Britain in 2016 by Harville Secker, a division of Penguin Random House Group Ltd."--Title-page verso.
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Contents:

The new human agenda -- Homo sapiens conquers the world. The Anthropocene ; The human spark -- Homo sapiens gives meaning to the world. The storytellers ; The odd couple ; The modern covenant ; The humanist revolution -- Homo sapiens loses control. The time bomb in the laboratory ; The great decoupling ; The ocean of consciousness ; The data religion.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062464310, Hardcover)

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.

Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 13 Aug 2016 07:56:48 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style--thorough, yet riveting--famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonald's than from being blown up by Al Qaeda. What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century-- from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution" --… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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